The Digital Problem
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Essential vocabulary

CORY DOCTOROW USES AN OP-ED in The Financial Times to explain why those earning a degree in multimedia development need to know how a rootkit works. Doctorow writes:

This past Hallowe'en, Sony BMG compact discs were revealed to carry a digital rights management technology built on a "rootkit", an illicit way to rewrite Windows so it hides the software's existence from the user. DRM technologies are systems for restricting the way that people who lawfully acquire works can use them. If you have ever been unable to print a PDF, watch a DVD you bought abroad or put a song from the iTunes Music Store on a non-Apple MP3 player, that is because of DRM.

Rootkits are vicious: list your files, they do not show up. Check running programs and they are not there. Except they are. Virus writers could--and did--exploit the rootkit's hiding capability to compromise personal computers. What is more, it soon became evident that Sony BMG's rootkit was spying on its users' deeds and sending an account of them to the company's servers. Sony BMG denied this, then changed its story and said it did get the messages but it ignored them, so there was no privacy issue. Thomas Hesse, president of global digital business, merely shrugged: "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"

Cory Doctorow -- "Vaudeville offers a music lesson for Sony BMG" in the 12 Dec 06 edition of FT.